While there are differences between social anxiety and shyness, you can use the same strategies to overcome both of them. It’s hard being uncomfortable socializing, no matter your place on the spectrum of social discomfort.
Perhaps you break into a full sweat and experience stomach distress before going out. Maybe you rarely leave your house. Or maybe you feel a bit uncomfortable but manage to make small talk anyway.
No matter your level of shyness or social anxiety, however, you can take small steps using some of the ideas below.
1. Learn Strategies from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a scientifically proven method for tackling all kinds of emotional struggles. While learning its techniques with the help of a therapist is often most beneficial, there’s still a considerable amount you can do through on your own.
Reframe Your Thoughts
One of the first places to begin to tackle any fear is to learn to reframe your thoughts. Make a list of the fearful or negative thoughts that you have about yourself surrounding social interaction. Then, begin to challenge them. Are they honestly true? Is it true all of the time?
Draw on Past Successes and Strengths
Another element of CBT is to remind yourself of past successes and strengths, even if they aren’t directly related to social situations. All the better if they are, of course. But the main point is to train your mind to focus on what is positive about you.
Use a Thought Journal
It can also be helpful to keep track of the emotions and thoughts you have surrounding instances of social anxiety or shyness. You may notice patterns. Once you do, you can work at reframing and challenging these ideas, as discussed above.
Learning basic mindfulness techniques is a great way to calm yourself when you start feeling anxious. When you learn to pay attention to what your body is feeling, whether anxious or calm, you can start making connections between your thoughts and how your body responds.
You’ll also learn practical ways to calm your physiological reactions of anxiety and shyness. Deep, controlled breathing can go a long way toward combating anxious feelings. You’ll be able to learn how to step back from your thoughts and see them from a more detached perspective.
As with any skill, part of overcoming social anxiety and shyness is to get out there and practice. This approach may not be fun. It may be immensely distressing. But start small. Set realistic goals, such as sitting down alone for 10 minutes in a coffee shop. Build up from there.
Eventually, you may ask a new acquaintance if they’d like to join you for coffee, or you’ll meet a friend at a large party where you don’t know anyone else. Draw upon your knowledge from CBT and mindfulness while you practice.
Of course, if your level of social anxiety is just more distressing than you feel you can overcome on your own, it may be wise to seek a therapist’s guidance. There may be other factors contributing to your anxiety that aren’t apparent.
A therapist can help identify and process those. Often, addressing an underlying issue can provide momentum and courage to continue forward. A therapist may also be able to connect you with support groups, where you can meet people with similar struggles.
As difficult as it may seem, it is possible to make great strides in overcoming your social anxiety or shyness. If you feel like you’re ready to go even further with the help of a therapist, call Integrative Psychotherapy Group today. We specialize in helping individuals with a variety of anxiety problems.